Friday, December 29, 2017

Depths of the Ocean

I've been studying the Kitab-i-Iqan for a number of years with my good friend, Samuel. Now, on the surface that looks pretty good, but really it doesn't tell you much. It only tells you the book, the individual, and that it's been at least two years, because, after all, two is a number, and it is plural. But really, it's been over 17 years.

It's been quite the journey.

And you know what? I feel like it's only begun.

Just the other day, a friend and I decided to look at the Iqan together here, while our children are taking part in a junior youth group. It keeps us out of their hair, and gives us something to do at the same time.

To give you an idea of what we've been doing, let me just say that we noticed that the following outline helped us break down the book into sizable chunks that we could begin to digest. The numbers refer to the paragraphs, not pages.

1 - 2  An introduction to the goal of our search.
3 - 6  Consider the past, and reflect
7 - 17  Messengers of the past
  • 7 - 8 Noah
  • 9  Hud
  • 10  Salih
  • 11 Abraham
  • 12  Moses
  • 13 - 16 Reasons for the denials
    • 13 "What could have caused such contention and conflict?"
    • 14 The motives of the people
    • 15 The motives of the clergy
    • 16 Ignorance - the main reason for denial
  • 17 Jesus
18 - 23 The Eternal Covenant

  • 18 Introduction
  • 19 "I will return"
  • 20 Unity of the Messengers
  • 21 - 23 "When will You return?
Of course, that is only the beginning. From there, paragraph 24 appears to us to be the major theme and outline for the rest of Part 1, in which Baha'u'llah looks at each phrase in the quote form Jesus (Matthew 24) and opens it up for us.

But looking at the beginning of the book again, with my friend Soraya, she pointed out things that I had never noticed before, or maybe noticed, but hadn't figured out a rationale for yet. For example, in paragraph 2, Baha'u'llah mentions that we must cleanse "(our) ears from idle talk, (our) ears from vain imaginings, (our) hearts from worldly affections, (our) eyes from that which perisheth." I mean, I noticed that He said this, and that He focused on a few attributes, but I never realized that there was a bit of a path there. It begins with the ears. We listen to what others say. This affects our mind, the way we think about things. That, in turn, affects our heart. This is one of the reasons that materialism is so dangerous. It sets our heart to focusing on the material things of life, encouraging us to neglect the more important things. This, in its own turn, changes how we see the world around us. It is like when we are happy, all seems beautiful in the world. But when we are sad, even the most beautiful thing fails to move us. And so, right at the very beginning, He is placing within this beautiful text clues about how we work, what it means for us to be human beings.

That was the beginning of realizing once again how valuable it is to study the Writings with others. Just the other night, during the junior youth group, we continued our study. We read paragraphs 7 - 12. This is what I mean about the outline helping us break it down into bite-size digestible chunks. We noticed that it was a reasonable amount, and it brought us to the end of a section.

What caught our attention was at the end of paragraph 8: "...the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns."

This was a passage I had flagged way back when Samuel and I began our own study. I sensed that there was a path there, but for the life of me, I couldn't see what it was.

That night, I feel like I began to get a glimpse. Perhaps it was Soraya, and her particular perspective that I value so much, or maybe the fact that we were fasting at the time, or more likely some combination of the two. Either way, a glimpse into this passage was offered me, for which I am very grateful.

Breaking it down into phrases, we see:

  • light from darkness
  • truth from falsehood
  • right from wrong
  • guidance form error
  • happiness from misery
  • roses from thorns

They are, of course, sets of pairs. No great insight there.

Light and dark, though, are the very most basic elements of creation, straight from Genesis 1, and that beginning of creation. From the darkness, God brought forth the light, and thus creation is occurring. Oh, that's not a typo. In the Hebrew, the verb is more accurately translated as "In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and the earth..." It is still happening.

Anyways, from there we get truth and falsehood. Truth is defined as "that which conforms to reality", so something already exists. Truth merely expresses what has been created.

Right and wrong move up a level or complexity, for now we are dealing with moral issues.

Guidance move us up yet another level, for this comes down from God, and following this guidance leads us to that next step, happiness.

Finally, you have the roses and the thorns. The roses are presumably referring to those parts of the flowers that are attractive, from their colour and their scent, which have become that symbol of love in many cultures. The thorns, however, are that part of the same flower which repel.

Looking at those 6 pairs, if we follow the words on the left, we end up us roses, points of attractive beauty in the garden of delight. if we follow that path on the right-hand side, we become like the thorns. The choice is up to us.

This book really is quite astonishing, and its depths really are unfathomable.  I would so love to read what gems you have found in it.

1 comment:

  1. Astonishing insight, lovely to break it down like that. Thanks for your work.